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Secretary's Message

March 7, 2014

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

I am so proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues, both DJJ employees and those who work for our contractors, and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your communities. I know there is even more going on than what I report here, so I would like to encourage each of you to keep the weekly letter in mind and remember to share your good news. It’s easy – email news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Wansley Walters

Governor Highlights New PACE Miami Center

I am thrilled to share that Governor Scott announced today the opening of the new Miami Center of the Pace Center for Girls. Deputy Secretary Christy Daly, Residential Services Regional Director Lois Salton, Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell, Detention Services Regional Director Dr. Gladys Negron, Probation and Community Services Regional Director Vanessa Hargray joined PACE girls, center staff and Governor Scott  to highlight the important investment in community prevention services. The new center in Miami will provide 50 girls with the opportunity to be involved with the PACE program. To access the full press release on the event click here.

Florida Children’s Council

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary Christy Daly attended the Florida Children’s Council Legislative Panel and Discussion at the TCC Capitol Center in Tallahassee. Christy spoke during the support of children, youth and families portion of the agenda where she presented our top legislative priorities for the 2014 Legislative Session. These topics included SB 700 which encompasses our Chapter 985 revisions and HB 173 which covers our Juvenile Education reform.

The overlying theme of the particular panel was to encompass the systems and services set into place by policy that meet an array of needs of children, youth and their families.  These systems and services include economic and workforce supports, child protective services, food and nutrition support, disabilities and special health care needs, and juvenile justice programs. 


Legislative Update

The 2014 Legislative Session kicked off on Tuesday and it has already been a big week for our agency’s legislative priorities. On Tuesday, I joined Chief of Staff Jason Welty and our Legislative team of Jon Menendez and Marcus Smith during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting where our Chapter 985 revisions (SB 700) were heard. The bill passed out of committee unanimously and continues to make its way through the process.

On Thursday, Jon, Marcus, and Director of Education Julie Orange were at the Capitol for the House Education Committee meeting. Our other legislative priority, HB 173 which pertains to our Juvenile Education reforms, was on the agenda for this committee. This bill also passed out of committee unanimously and awaits a full vote in the House in the near future.


Quality Improvement Update

The Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts an annual review of each state-run and contracted provider program. This is a highly interactive process between the review team and the program, and the focus of these reviews is continuous improvement in services to children and operational processes. Upon completion of each QI review, the program has an opportunity to evaluate their overall QI review experience, including individual QI team members. The feedback DJJ receives ensures fairness and fidelity to the purpose of the review, and allows for the continuous improvement of the QI process. Recently, the QI team from Jacksonville conducted the annual review of Probation and Community Intervention, Circuit 7, located in Daytona Beach, FL . Probation Chief, W. David Kerr offered the following comments:  

“This was the most positive review I have ever experienced, which in nearly forty (40) of service and numerous reviews says a lot of the team and Mr. Marino’s leadership.  The time allowed, the quality of the communication, both written and oral and the opportunities provided for our responses and feedback led to a highly successful experience for all.”

Thanks to the Jacksonville QI team and peer reviewers: Mike Marino, Janice Flatley, LeAnn Gruentzel, James Lightbody, Yvette Isaac, Adrian Mathena, Kristen Richardson. Your conscientious commitment to helping programs improve is one example of DJJ’s reform efforts to make Florida a leader in the humane and effective administration of juvenile justice.

Prevention Update

Last Friday, members of the Florida State University Black Law Students Association and Office of Prevention team members toured the Leon County Juvenile Detention Center. These students and team members spoke with the youth in our facility about mentorship and possible careers in the field of law. 

(from left to right): Sergeant Juan Youman; Onazina Washington, Governmental Operations Consultant III; Tiya Rolle, FSU law student; Aseye Ablordeppey, FSU law student; Cici Battle, Youth Engagement Coordinator; Sergeant Retha Smith; and Craig Swain, DMC Specialist.

On Wednesday, Deputy Manager for Prevention Rhyna Jefferson presented the Welcome and Occasion during the third day of National Prayer & Inspirational Week Worship Services at the St. Mary Primitive Baptist Church in Tallahassee. National Prayer & Inspirational Week is held annually the first week in March.  The purpose of the week is to pray for and bring inspiration to local, state, and federal government leaders, abused youth, families and communities, the homeless, sick and bereaved, law enforcement officials, armed forces, and victims of crime, all in the effort to enhance world peace and racial harmony.  

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee attended a Black History Month event last Thursday sponsored by the Pinellas County Urban League for the inaugural Whitney M. Young, Jr. 2014 Leadership Award Luncheon at the Historic Manhattan Casino Event Center in St. Petersburg. To recognizing outstanding achievements in the community and public investment, The Whitney M. Young Jr. Award is given in honor of the National Urban League leader who for many years led the Urban League into a position of significant power and influence throughout the world. Five unsung Pinellas County heroes were recognized for their work that helped lead, educate and inspire the community.  

(from left to right): Delinquency Prevention Specialist Audrey “Pat” McGhee; Carl Lavender, Vice Chair of the Inaugural Whitney M. Young Jr. 2014 Leadership Award Luncheon; and Pattye L. Sawyer-Hampton, Director of Communications and External Affairs with the Pinellas County Urban League.    

Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson has been nominated to receive a Golden A.C.E. (Authentic Community Engagement) Award from the Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals. Rhyna was notified on March 5, with the final winners to be announced on March 29 at the Hotel Duval in Tallahassee. Rhyna was nominated in the Public Servant’s category. This is the third year that the NYP will recognize young professionals less than 40 years of age to highlight the community’s emerging local leaders. The NYP was established in 2003 to help individuals foster an authentic relationship with the community they call home. The organization is dedicated to making Tallahassee a city where young professionals choose to live, work, play and stay.

Youth Engagement Coordinator Cici Battle, Financial Coordinator Cheryl Howard and Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator Brittany Claybrooks chaperoned and assisted with coordinating the Girls Lock-In for middle and high school aged students from Leon, Gadsden and Wakulla counties at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee last Friday night. The third annual Girls Lock-In, using the theme, “Passport to Womanhood” was designed to give teen girls an opportunity to socialize, share their experiences, and learn from each other and members of the community. Activities included a talent show, Zumba, dance lessons, beauty and make-up session and workshops on professionalism and entrepreneurship. The girls were accompanied by volunteer chaperones from various sororities, school and community groups.

(from left to right): Cici Battle, Cheryl Howard and Brittany Claybrooks at the Girls Lock-In at Palmer Munroe Teen Center.

Last Saturday, Federal Grants Manager Yvonne Woodard volunteered at the Second Harvest of the Big Bend to sort through donated food and to feed hungry residents in the Tallahassee area. The service project was organized in celebration of  Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Tallahassee Chapter Founder’s Day. The mission of Second Harvest is to feed the hungry in the Big Bend through their network of partner agencies and to educate and engage the community in the fight against hunger.  Second Harvest serves families in the following counties: Leon, Jefferson, Taylor, Wakulla, Gadsden, Jackson, Liberty, Madison, Calhoun, Franklin and Gulf. They deliver food to their partner agencies in each of these counties to ensure they have the food needed to distribute and serve their clients.

 Probation Update

It gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Tom Witt as the Circuit 3 Chief Probation Officer.  Tom has deep roots in the community and will do a great job in this new role.  Tom served as Circuit 3 Assistant Chief since 2010 when he was promoted from JPO Supervisor.  Please join me in welcoming Tom to the Probation NE Regional Leadership Team.

Last Friday, Circuit 9 Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson attended the “iRose Against Violence” Jump Off Dance for teens ages 13-18. This event was sponsored by the Central Florida Harbor House and the Young Educated Speakers Youth Movement as a part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This fun-filled event featured food, dancing and information regarding violence prevention among teens. 

Left to Right, C9 Reform Specialist, Melinda Wesley-Nelson, and Kayla Crawford, Y.E.S. Youth Coordinator

Marion County officials have teamed up with the Ocala Police Department and the Teen Court of Ocala to begin a Civil Citation program beginning April 1. Sargent Robbie Bonner of the Ocala Police Department and Teen Court Director Ralph Warner were instrumental in getting the program up and running. All community service work will have to be completed within the city limits and school resource officers have committed to acting as mentors.

DJJ Probation team members Kara Ahearn and Jeannie Becker-Powell spent three days north of the border this week in an intensive emersion of the SNAP Program by observing children and family groups as well as reviewing the research components involved in its implementation. SNAP is a prevention model focused on children under the ages of 12 who are at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.

SJPOs Lesa Regan and Jared White and JPOs Nikisha Branham, Jon Justison and Kim Dandeneau from Circuit 6 supervised ten youth during a community service event at the Pinellas County Science Technology Education & Innovation Center on February 22. Each month, the center hosts community service projects for delinquent youth in the area which focus on improving the non-profit museum. Each youth who took part gained valuable community service hours by clearing the grounds, spreading mulch into the garden areas and improving the aesthetics of the facility. 

Circuit 8 CPO Jill Wells and Reform Specialist Melanie Kretzman took part in Gang Awareness Day sponsored by the Gainesville Police Department and the Upper Room Church last Saturday. Jill and Melanie represented DJJ as they educated parents about active gangs in and around Gainesville and how to identify each gang. These meetings are part of a three prong approach (Prevention, Intervention and Suppression) to curtail gang activity in Alachua County, and will be held in different neighborhoods throughout the county.  

Circuit 1 JPO Amy Daglish  is making a positive impact on the life of one of our youth. She has begun mentoring a 16 year old girl at the Florida Youth Challenge Academy (FLYCA)  in Alachua County. The young girl is not currently in the juvenile justice system, but needed a mentor to attend the FLYCA Program. Amy originally volunteered to mentor a local girl in Okaloosa County, but when that fell through she absorbed the financial burden to mentor this girl more than three hours away. Amy attended the Mentor Training Day on February 15 in Starke with the young lady, while writing to her on a weekly basis and connecting her with the different types of opportunities available to her. Amy’s willingness to go above and beyond to help a youth outside of her circuit shows the kind of dedication we have come to expect out of all of our probation officers. 

JPOS Marilyn Walker, Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson and CPO Adrienne Conwell from Circuit 6 participated in the Connect 2 Breakdown the Wall Symposium on February 22. This event was designed to connect faith-based organizations and social service providers with the goal of increasing the visibility of ministries, connect with other faith-based organizations and share resources and services. The successful symposium will become a yearly event in Pinellas County. 

JPOs Cindy Saltzman, Janet Schnering, Tonya Mathis and Lawanta Stewart from Circuit 6 attended the 2014 Drug Summit hosted by the University of Tampa on February 24 and 25. This summit, which provided information about the effects of illegal and prescription drugs, was sponsored by Drug Free America, St. Petersburg College, AAA, health care organizations, and community coalitions.

Circuit 9 CPO Cathy Lake and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson were guests on Evangelist Grace Worthy’s radio show on Rejoice 1140 AM in Orlando. Cathy and Melinda were invited to inform the public about our agency and reform initiatives, along with opportunities for youth and families to connect through prevention programs. 

On February 25, Circuit 9 Probation staff partnered with CareerSource Central Florida to host a meeting of all CareerSource providers, DJJ supervisors and senior staff and DJJ contracted providers. Among the DJJ personal in attendance were Circuit 9 CPO Cathy Lake who hosted the event at the Orange County Juvenile Assessment Center, as well as Circuit 5 CPO Rick Bedson and Circuit 18 ACPO Denise Devlin who all serve on the CareerSource Youth Committee, which encompasses these three circuits. All participants were given the opportunity to hear more about eligibility as well as services for adults and have a group discussion surrounding suitability and sustainability. DJJ is excited about the opportunities for youth and their families and the partnerships developed with everyone in attendance.

Circuit 20 Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq served as a guest speaker at the Harns Marsh Elementary School Career Day in Lehigh Acres last Friday. During four different rotations, she provided information to fourth graders on our agency and her own career path. Lut emphasized the importance of doing the right thing and making good choices. There were approximately 75 bright and insightful students who asked Lut many questions in regards to staying out of trouble. 

Residential Update

65 Years on Our Side   Last week, the Northwest Regional Residential Leadership Team held a day of planning and training at the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium in Chipley.  During the retreat, the contract managers and monitors refreshed their knowledge of existing best practices and learned about what is planned for the future.  But, the best was saved for last - years of service pins were awarded!

The group celebrated a combination of more than 65 years of service with Program Monitor April Denney (10 years of service), Program Monitor Natasha Faul (20 years of service) and Contract Manager Linda Williams (35 years of service).  These three ladies bring an array of knowledge and experience to DJJ.  Their dedication to improving the lives of the youth we serve is an inspiration.  We are very fortunate to work side by side with these ladies every day. 

L-R:  Program Monitor April Denney, Contract Manager Linda Williams, and Program Monitor Natasha Faul each received their DJJ years of service awards pins at the Northwest Regional Residential Leadership Team meeting in Chipley.

Congratulations to the winners of the Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., 2013 Individual Program Employee of the Year (EOY) Awards.  Each year, the individuals attend a corporate management team meeting, followed by a luncheon, presentation of plaques, and participation in an interview process through which they compete for the overall Twin Oaks EOY Award.  This year’s juvenile justice Individual Program EOY Award winners were:

  • Jerrai Vance – DOVE Academy
  • Donald Williams – Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST)
  • Rhonda Gibson – Residential Alternative for the Mentally Challenged (RAM-C) Program

The winner of the 2013 Twin Oaks Employee of the Year (EOY) Award was the Clinical Coordinator at the RAM-C Program Rhonda Gibson.  The award was presented to Rhonda at the RAM-C facility last Friday with youth and staff in attendance. 

Rhonda was born in Camden, New Jersey, and is the fifth of seven children in her family.  At the age of 13, her family moved to Riviera Beach, where she attended Suncoast High School and graduated in the top 10 of her class.  She then attended the Florida State University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Child Development and a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling with a Specialist Degree in Education.  

Prior to working with Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., Rhonda interned at the Apalachee Center and the Turnabout Intensive Substance Abuse Outpatient Program.  She also worked for Florida Therapy Services, where she provided home- and school-based counseling.  She credits these experiences with giving her the ability to understand what it takes to work with adults and with children who have mental health disorders.  Additionally, because of her experience, she has been instrumental in implementing the “Seven Challenges” curriculum with the youth at the RAM-C Program.

Shown here are all of the Twin Oaks 2013 Individual Program Employee of the Year Awards Winners: (L-R) Jerrai Vance – Case Manager, Dove Academy; Rhonda Gibson – Clinical Coordinator, RAM-C Program; Shauna Adams-Farries – Site Director, Boys & Girls Club of Tabula Rasa; Johnna McBride – Assistant Director, Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp; and Donald Williams – Assistant Director, JUST.

Last week, 18 residents and eight staff members participated in the Inaugural Impact House Superbowl.  Impact House is a low- and moderate-risk residential program in Duval County for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Gateway Community Services.

Hosted by Evangel Church (a member of the Community Advisory Board) and City Streets 2 Student Athletes, the Impact House Superbowl was held at Plantation Park in St. Johns County.  Each organization fielded two teams, competing for the first prize trophy.  The event also allowed for Impact House families to bring two family members to enjoy the competition and food for all during the games.  The day began with a morning devotional by Mike Self of Evangel Temple who provided words of encouragement and fellowship for the day’s events.

A standard football field was divided into three flag-football fields and the brackets were prepared to track each games’ winner.  Each team participated in a minimum of three games.  

After a full afternoon of competition, Impact House A-Team competed in the championship game against Evangel Temple, which proved to be a bit more experienced and came away with the victory.

Overall, the Impact House players showed a competitive edge, excellent sportsmanship and a great sense of team work!  None of the boys had participated in this type of organized competition previously.

Last weekend, the Dade Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF)—a residential program that is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, for males, ages 13 to 18, who have been adjudicated as moderate-risk—hosted its inaugural Family Carnival.  The event proved to be a great success.  More than 100 family members spent the day at the facility and participated in a variety of carnival-themed games.  Activities included traditional carnival games and activities, such as ring toss, ball toss, balloon pop, hula hoop contests, potato sack races, face painting, and more.  Additional activities for the residents and their families included a health station where visitors received free health education from our team of registered nurses who also were conducting blood pressure checks. 

There was a military recruiter on site who provided the residents and their families with information about enlisting in the United States Armed Forces.  The Everglades Outpost, a local animal rescue and sanctuary where the Dade JRF residents volunteer, provided an educational exhibit of some exotic reptiles and allowed family members to pose for pictures with some of the animals.  

The most popular activity was the staff dunk tank, where program residents and their families got an opportunity to dunk a facility staff member in the water.     

In addition to all the games, our residents and their families were treated to a variety of carnival treats such as cotton candy, popcorn, corn dogs, corn on the cob, chicken wings, and homemade BBQ.  

The event provided the residents and their families with an opportunity to dance to the music played by a DJ.  In addition, all of the family members were able to interact with the members of each young man’s treatment team as well as the facility staff members and the program's management team.  Lastly, all family members and program residents posed for family photos that were printed so that both the families and the residents received a copy.

The event was a big success and the program staff is already planning the next one.  Kudos to the Unit Manager Walter Reid who had the vision to put this event together and took the initiative to make sure it all went as planned.  

 Detention Update

Many of the youth in our facilities are in need of consistent eye and dental care during their stay with the Department of Juvenile Justice. Thanks to the Circuit 14 Community Advisory Board youth at the Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center are having one of those needs met. Advisory Board member Beth Mathis partnered with Bay County School Board Liaison Anne Martin to identify those students in need of routine eye exams. Dr. W. Payton Patterson of the Emerald Coast Eye Care Center in Panama City has graciously donated his time and resources to perform the necessary eye exams that our youth need, while allowing them to pick out their own frames all free of charge. To date, five youth have received free eye exams and glasses through this unique partnership. I would like to thank Dr. Patterson along with Beth Mathis and Anne Martin for their dedication to meet the needs of the youth in our facility. 

Captain Mary Pagano from Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center is leading the effort to make the facility softer and brighter. Shown above and below are some of the latest pics of her great work. 

Education Update

Last week, Director of Education Julie Orange hosted her counterpart from the Oregon Youth Authority. Julie took the gentlemen on a tour of the Escambia Boys Base, Okaloosa Youth Development Center and Okaloosa Youth Academy, DOVE Academy, JUST, St. John’s RJDC and Volusia RJDC. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about how Florida provides career education to students in residential programs. He is hopeful to replicate our system into similar facilities in Oregon.

Director Orange has also provided us with an update on our partnership with The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS). The project is going well as CEEAS staff members met with teachers and administrators from each of the Okeechobee DJJ Schools in the fall to review student survey results and agree on a plan of action.

The group name is Okeechobee Network (ON) and the main goal agreed upon was communication building and maintaining healthy relationships between educators and students through effective communication. Students and teachers have worked hard to develop a positive learning culture and ensuring students are highly engaged in standards based lessons. Project based learning helped establish a community of learners amongst teachers and students and will help prepare these students for success when they transition back into their schools and communities.

You can download a video highlighting the project based learning activity in Okeechobee at this link.

Wellness Wire

Please find a link below to the March edition of The Wellness Wire. This monthly publication provides calendars of events hosted by providers of Florida State Group Insurance and tips to improve health and emotional well-being.

Volume 2 │ Issue 3 │ March 2014

People First Customer Survey

Starting Monday (March 10, 2014) through Friday (March 21, 2014), the Department of Management Services will e-mail a survey to 25,000 randomly selected active and retired state employees with e-mail addresses (work or personal) captured in People First. The survey will be from “DMS Survey Comments <noreply@dms.myflorida.com>”. The agency Chief Information Officers have already been notified to help ensure that this e-mail is not blocked as spam. The e-mail will present a link to a Survey Monkey survey and there will not be any e-mail attachments. The survey will ask employees to rate their level of satisfaction with People First. Our goal is to determine the effectiveness of the system and the People First Service Center, and to give our customers an opportunity to provide feedback.

I encourage you to respond quickly and openly to this survey.  The deadline to respond is Friday, March 21. 

Don’t Forget to “Spring Forward!”

The Safety Unit reminds you that if nothing else, the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a good time to check the batteries in your smoke/carbon monoxide detectors and weather radios. 

Don't forget to turn your clocks ahead one hour by 2am this Sunday morning